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Highway Cafe and More: The Hungry Rooster

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I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t heard the words ‘one day I’d love my own food truck’ about a dozen times in the past six months. Just think of it, a life on the road, serving up your daily creations to fans all over the city, festivals, events, different faces everyday chowing down on the food you lovingly prepared. It really does sound like a fabulous and romantic sort of daydream does it not!

Well this week, I interviewed a woman fulfilling these mobile restaurant dreams. Paulina Tokarski is the principal behind The Hungry Rooster, a Victoria, BC-based food truck that does all of the above and then some. Parked Tuesday – Friday at 777 Courtenay Street in Victoria and then at various Vancouver Island locations on weekends, The Hungry Rooster is a testament to lots of hardwork and creative vision. Here Paulina tells us more about her delicious fusion of Eastern European flavours, her initial motivation and offers tips to those with the same ideas of culinary adventure.

I’m a hungry rooster, what’s on the menu?

Home made perogies, done traditionally as well as infused with sauce from around the world. Local delicious sausages, and our famous Perogie Slap Down- a grill cheese perogies sandwich with bacon, aioli, and cheese on sour dough bread.

And where am I going to hunt you down?

Our primary “roost” for the food truck is on Courtney Street and Douglas. We serve lunches 11-3:30. The best way to track us down is by checking our Facebook calendar or following us on Twitter. We update everything daily with our specials and locations.

You’re a food truck? Well that’s amazing, but how do you prep and cook in such a confined space?

It’s a lot of work, much more then a restaurant. I have a few freezers and fridges at home where I store everything that I can’t fit in the small fridge in the truck. All my sauces and prep are done in the morning on the truck. We make everything fresh daily. We are constantly prepping, for bigger events we may prep the day before and early in the morning. Lets just say its been a very busy summer.

Where do you source your produce?

My perogies are made by my mom, Janina, who has her own commercial kitchen on Salt Spring Island. All the perogies ( 6 different varieties) are made by her and can be bought in several stores in Victoria: Market on Yates, Lifestyles Market, Red Barn Market, Mothers Nature (Cook St. Village). My meat comes from Two Rivers, a local distruibuter who sources his product from the lower mainland. Our meat is free of antibiotics and hormones, is ethically raised and of the best quality. My produce come from local produce, GFS and my garden.

How else do you keep your impact on our planet as low as possible?

We recycle everything we can. We compost our fresh food peels in my garden. I use compostable cutlery and packaging.

I’m in a rush, but I need lunch, surprise me?

All our food is prepared in 3-5 minutes, we are a food truck after all!

Now, I’ve had a few and I’m heading home hoping for no hangover tomorrow, do you have a late night cure for me? 

We use to do late night, not anymore. The Slap Down is our hangover cure, for sure.

How did this business come about? What was the inspiration?

We wanted to do something different. I drove all the way to Hollywood and found my truck there. I wanted to be mobile and move around serving customers all over the city. Its hard work but it’s worth it. Victoria is still new to the food truck business, but I am hoping we can come up with a way to make everyone happy and allow the trucks to bring some food street culture to our city.

Why mobile and not static?

I use to own a restaurant/deli in town for 13 years. Why not? I thought that it would give me more flexibility, especially in the off season. As a seasonal worker I can work really hard during the summer and relax a little in the winter.

What do you think, will you always be on Vancouver Island, or will you travel the world… you have the perfect means!

Our first season in Victoria has been very, very busy for us. There are many vibrant events and festivals that happen in Victoria during the summer. I like to go up island for Vancouver Island Folk Festival or Filberg festival but venturing any farther than that might be too much for our Rooster Truck.

Do you cater special events? Say weddings, bar mitzvahs and the like?

Yes I do. I did couple of private events this summer but it needs to be a big event to make it worth while on a weekend. Weekdays are a bit more flexible as will be the offseason.

And you know we love used, so what’s your best used find?

My Rooster Truck. It is 2001 and needed a lot of work before we had him driving on streets of victoria. We also bought all our fridges, our deli slicer and our prep table second hand.

Anything else we need to know about The Hungry Rooster?

We love home made food, our planet and our community.

Any advice to people on a similar adventure?

Your biggest issue will be finding a spot where the city will allow you serve food from a truck. Be creative and be ready to work long hours and weekends.

And finally, for the big groan finale, why did the chicken cross the road? (I know right)

To come see the Rooster, and get some of those awesome perogies!

Marketing Manager at Lover of yoga, bees, red wine, rock n roll music, good books and mountain views.

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